Monday, March 11, 2013

Megan E. Jones-Williams on the Melisa Vistain case

Note from Megan E. Jones-Williams regarding our post Miguided advocates want false rape charges dismissed against Melisa Vistain:

Hello!

Thank you for posting about the case against Melisa Vistain. We appreciate the attention you are giving to this situation and believe that this is just the type of case that should be highlighted on a site like yours.

I am sorry to hear that you feel we are misguided and not helping you learn about the substance of the case. I would be happy to answer your questions and offer further information.

Your statement that we are "intent on arguing that a person who makes an accusation of sexual assault should not be charged with making a false report under ANY circumstances" is inaccurate. If someone makes a false report, they should face the consequences for that action. This is not the case with Melisa Vistain. She maintains her position that she was sexually assaulted and has never recanted. We know that false reporting of rape negatively impacts the conditions for those who ARE sexual assault victims. We are supporting Melisa because she asserts that she is WRONGFULLY charged for false reporting.

We are working to support sexual assault victims and ensure that they feel safe in reporting the violence committed against them to law enforcement. We want to work with our local law enforcement and state's attorney's office to hold perpetrators accountable for the crimes they commit; the first step in that process is for victims to report. We disagree with your statement that "there is no evidence that false rape charges deter women from reporting rape"; our evidence comes from listening to the rape victims who call our hotline fearful of the negative legal consequences they may face if they report what happened to them. We do not have a tactic or ulterior motive here; we simply support rape victims who come to us for help.

We understand that there are cases where there is insufficient evidence to prosecute the accused perpetrator, often times this is labeled a "he said/she said" case. The implication with this phrase is that he said it was consensual, but she said it was not. In a culture that overwhelmingly believes men over women, this results in "her" side being diminished. When a victim tells us that she did not want what happened - that she said "no" - we believe her. In the case with Melisa Vistain, the state's attorney says the incident was consensual, but Melisa says it was not. In accordance with the law, our position is that consent to one activity does not equal consent to other activities, and sexual consent can be withdrawn at any time. Further, we believe that a person's prior relationship/friendship/marriage/acquaintance does not imply consent and should not be used as evidence that the sexual activity was wanted.

Finally, our agency takes an intersectional, comprehensive approach to gender violence prevention; in this, we believe that an "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere". We are not waging war on rape at the expense of "our sons" but see people of all genders as part of the solution to ending sexual violence. In fact, over 10% of our clients are male, we have many wonderful volunteers at our center who do not identify as female, and we co-sponsor an active Men's Violence Prevention group in our community. Many of these individuals, along with my husband and my son, will be protesting at the courthouse tomorrow - not because of a blanket statement accusing an innocent man, but because Melisa says she was raped and we believe her.

Sincerely,

Megan E. Jones-Williams
Rape Crisis Services Program Coordinator

The Women's Center, Inc.
610 S. Thompson St.
Carbondale, IL 62901
www.thewomensctr.org